A Few Words About
. . . Plagiarism
Plagiarism may be unintentional,
but it is certainly a fact ÷ a fact that students
need to be reminded of now and again. The MLA Handbook for Writers
of Research Papers (4th Edition) defines plagiarism
as "us[ing] another person's ideas or expressions
in your writing without acknowledging the source" (26).
In short ÷ plagiarism is thievery, because the person
is stealing something that rightfully belongs to
someone else and is claiming it as their own work. The
rule of thumb is if the ideas, thoughts, or words
came from someone else then give them credit.
So . . . .
Q. If I rearrange or delete a few words or phrases
or add my own synonyms, am I plagiarizing?
e.g. Before: "Some consider
the doxologies to be later additions because they supposedly
fit awkwardly in their contexts and exhibit advanced
theological concepts characteristic of a later period" (Chisholm
After: Some think the doxologies were added later
because they fit awkwardly on their contexts and show
theological concepts which are features of a later
A. Yes. The words in the 'before' paragraph were
crafted by Robert B. Chisholm, Jr. in his book Interpreting
the Minor Prophets. Rearranging some of his furniture
(words/phrases/ideas), as indicated in the 'after'
model, does not change things. It is still plagiarism.
Q. If I forget to put quoted material from an author
in quotation marks, am I plagiarizing?
e.g. Before: "In
the Jewish world of the first century AD Jesus of Nazareth
a man apart." e.g.
After: In the Jewish world of the first century
of Nazareth was a man apart.
A. Yes. Even though you may not have been willfully
attempting to deceive, a charge of plagiarism can
be levelled since the reader of the paper is unable
to differentiate between intentionality and sloppy
Further, a paragraph that combines the selected
sentences (or parts thereof) of an author over one
or several pages, with or without appropriately noted
quotation marks, constitutes plagiarism as well.
today are neither Old Testament prophets nor
New Testament apostles.
Today's preachers are dependent on the Scriptures
as their source of revelation. The only norm
we have today for judging whether preachers speak
the word of the Lord is the Bible. "If contemporary
preachers wish to preach the word, they will
need to proclaim relevantly the word that was
long ago inscribed in Scripture" (Greidanus The
Modern Preacher 10)
The previous sentence appears normal. The
carefully included quotation even helps to suggest
a deliberate, diligent, and accurate accounting of
sources. IN FACT, the paragraph is the combination
of a number of direct quotes, covering several pages
of Greidanus's work:
- 1st sentence - Greidanus 7
- 2nd sentence - Greidanus 8
- 3rd sentence - Greidanus 9
- 4th sentence - Greidanus 10
This is unethical, deceptive, and absolutely inappropriate.
Q. Is it all right to paraphrase?
A. Paraphrasing involves taking the words or ideas
of others and putting that information into your
own words so that it becomes more meaningful. Nevertheless,
the idea/s still belong to someone else. So, go ahead
and paraphrase - but name the source.
Q.If I don't remember from where I got certain information,
may I still use it?
A. Careless research techniques run the risk of
leading to unintentional plagiarism. Review the way
in which you keep track of your sources and make
changes - fast. Better to not use the information
gathered, avoid the charge of plagiarism and learn
from your mistakes for the next time.
Q. How Do I Keep from Committing Plagiarism?
Openly acknowledge sources used - good writers
2. Use the information you
collect carefully and methodically. e.g.
Let's suppose that the following sentence appeared
in an essay: In
his book God Remembers, Charles Feinberg describes
as "the Epitomist of Messianic prophecy" (5).In
this example notice that the writer has taken three precautions when writing
the sentence: (1) Feinberg's name appears - after all, it was a source (2) quotation
marks were placed around a distinctive Feinberg phrase, and (3) a page reference
directs us to a precise point in Feinberg's book. Without these kinds of precautions
the writer would be plagiarizing.
Books, journals, even popular magazines like Macleans refer
to sources directly in written articles. Why
not you? It gives credibility to what is written.
Entire pages, chapters, even books
can be summarized in a sentence or two or three. Instead
of overwhelming the reader with avalanches of information,
move to the heart of what the source is saying, condense
it and give credit. Summarizing helps give writers
a better feel for their own thoughts and the debt they
owe to others in the formation of those thoughts. Of
course, make sure you do not misrepresent the author's
3. Summarize the material of others.
Develop the habit of thinking
through the ideas of others and formulate your own
perspective. Failure to practice this skill often can
lead to being controlled by the sources researched
and allow skills in essay writing to atrophy through
lack of use.
4. Learn to think and write for yourself.
A concluding word . . .
Finally, it seems to be a common habit among college
students these days to xerox large amounts of source
material, all-the-while thinking they are collecting
volumes of notes for an essay assignment. In reality
this is not true. Note-taking is an analytical response,
not a mechanical one. Therefore a xeroxed copy of
a page or pages of a book does not constitute a note
and is not a note. That does not mean that a photocopy
cannot be helpful - of course it can be, but it still
is not a note. Remember that when you are called
upon to give evidence of your work.